Matilda and Earthquakes

This week has seen two new experiences in my life, which I will describe to you shortly. First – an apology; for any earthquake puns that may be present in this post (accidental or otherwise).

Last Tuesday (27th January) I am proud to say that I enjoyed my first earthquake. “Where was this seismic occurrence?” I hear you ask. Was it during a trip to a volcanic zone, or an area subject to plate tectonics? I have been fortunate enough in life so far to have travelled to many such areas, from the threatening Mount Vesuvius to the menacing San Andreas fault line and yet my first experience of an earthquake was in cosy Hampshire.

While sat in my parents’ living room on a quiet evening last week, my younger brother came into the room to tell me that he was off out for the evening. We both felt the vibration of the house as a large lorry passed by, at least this was the explanation I threw at my brother when he pondered what had just occurred. It wasn’t until checking the local news headlines later that night that I realised the magnitude of what had occurred.

2.9, to be precise. The vibration of the house had been caused not by a lorry, but by the ground itself. The epicentre of the quake was in Winchester where residents reported beds vibrating across the floor and loud rumbling sounds. All we felt here (approximately thirty miles from the epicentre) was a light shaking and faint rumble, but still I am chuffed to say that I felt an earthquake.

And now for something completely different…

The second new experience this week came in the form of the completely spiffing stage musical that is Matilda. With the story adapted for the stage by Dennis Kelly we are presented with the story that many of us are familiar with from our childhood. The book is obviously a classic, and one of Roald Dahl’s most loved works. It has previously been adapted for the silver screen in 1996 by Danny DeVito (scarily enough, that film is now nearly twenty years old) who put a New York twist on the story.

The Cambridge Theatre - home of Matilda The Musical. My camera could not handle the excitement and took this overexposed beauty

The Cambridge Theatre – home of Matilda The Musical. My camera could not handle the excitement and took this overexposed beauty

Kelly has done a fantastic job of putting another twist on Matilda, creating an experience that will surprise even those of us who have grown up with the story. His characterisation of Matilda’s brother Michael makes for some great comic moments; as does the addition of new characters such as Rudolpho the salsa dancer, and the Russian Mafia. Miss Trunchbull had a terrific stage presence; being at the centre of the show’s scarier moments including the legendary pigtails scene from the book. This moment was so well executed that it left me wondering how on earth the technical crew had managed to engineer it. Further brilliance came with the beautiful and inspired delivery of Miss Honey’s backstory, though I will leave details out of this post to avoid spoilers. Last but certainly not least – Matilda herself demonstrated a level of talent far beyond her years, bringing tears to the eye with her singing and truly encompassing the character.

The key genius, however, in bringing the tale to the stage is Tim Minchin. His music and lyrics for Matilda are among the best written in recent years – perfectly complimenting the story, keeping the production slick and allowing each cast member to excel. The highlight for me came with “When I Grow Up” which had a wonderful theme of embracing the freedom that comes with adulthood, while holding close the optimism and sense of adventure that every child is blessed with. This is something I feel we should all do as we progress through our lives. “Revolting Children” also needs a mention, with its clever wordplay and triumphant tone showing songs can evoke emotional reactions in listeners of all ages.

With a story we all love being given new twists and surprises, a stunning cast, beautiful music and some of the most striking stage design in theatre right now – Matilda the Musical is an experience that both adults and children will struggle to leave without a Cheshire Cat style grin.